Planting The Seeds Of Doubt And Peace

Often it seems hopeless. No matter how many rocket launchers you take out, no matter how many tunnels you uncover, no matter how many terrorists you kill, there are always more to take their places. “Carpet bomb ‘em,” says the right-wing vox populi.

But we all know that’s not going to happen.

Despite the fact that the people of Gaza voted in their own misery by electing Hamas to rule over them in 2006, Israel wishes them no harm and is unhappy about the civilian loss of life in Operation Protective Edge. We’re not going to carpet bomb Gaza because of a mistake the people made at the polls in 2006. Even though a ground op means we lose more of our men.

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Bibi is a chess player. He has to think things through on many levels. How he conducts this war affects his standing at home and how he is perceived in the court of public opinion And while no one can second guess him at this point, he is always going choose the way forward that is least likely to harm Gazan civilians. That means accepting all ceasefire proposals, no matter how transparently insincere they appear. It also means ground ops will be favored over carpet bombing Gazan territory because the average Joe in the street is not the guy launching the rockets.

In fact, Israelis are themselves horrified at the callous and cynical use by Hamas of innocent civilians as human shields. We are disturbed at the way this tactic kills innocents and works for the terrorist org as a means of winning the PR war in the mainstream media.

Israel has been typecast. The world believes what it chooses to believe, what it wants to believe. The world prefers to believe the false narrative of the terrorists over the truth put forward by the Jews: the people who brought them Jesus and the basis of Islam, the people who got there first.

The media has eagerly bought into the idea that not enough Israelis have died—that this war is disproportionate and therefore, the side with the least casualties (Israel) must be evil—and media consumers have accepted what they are fed without question.

Television is the voice of authority. And besides, no one really likes the Jews. They are an age-old problem that won’t go away, even if polite people don’t speak of it. And in case you think this is just too facile an explanation, consider this:  the world laps up Arab propaganda about Israel because it has chosen to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the idea that it is the next target to be sacrificed for the sake of the Caliphate.

It falls to ordinary people then, to find a way forward in this unending mess of violence and pain. The task falls to people not fooled by talking heads, politicians, or the xenophobic. I, personally, am always looking for the way forward. And so I put the question to all the wise people I know including my old friend Avi Feld.

Rabbi Avraham Feld

Rabbi Avraham Feld

Avi knows a lot about Islam. He knows a lot about world religions in general, and is a rabbi to boot. He runs safe houses for the children of Jewish mothers and Muslim fathers. He teaches these children martial arts to give them back their confidence.

Avi is a big man graced with charisma and is unafraid to walk wherever he chooses. So he speaks to Arabs in the streets of Jerusalem and plants seeds of doubt and peace. The seeds of doubt relate to the particular path these men have chosen in Islam. Avi shows them the errors of their ways, using core principles common to both Islam and Judaism.

It is Avi’s belief that if we can just plant a seed of doubt, it will take hold to change the current dynamic—the dynamic that has killed so many people on both sides so cruelly. Here is Avi’s philosophy, culled from years of study and beautiful in its simplicity:

  • Violent physical jihad may not be declared except by a central Muslim authority, someone akin to the Pope, and no such authority exists.
  • Therefore, any Muslim that kills someone in the name of jihad is not a shahid, a martyr, but rather is committing suicide, something that is expressly forbidden according to the Koran.
  • Instead of going to “that big whorehouse in the sky” as Avi puts it, these “martyrs” who kill in the name of Islam are all going to Hell according to their own religion.

The Arabs were largely illiterate until the 20th century. Until this time, Islamic teachings were mainly spread by village Imams and by word of mouth. Once the people could read, radical Muslims began putting out all these radical tracts and this is the Islam that took hold.

Jihad

In using the simple, logical argument that Avi put to me however, it seems plausible that a seed of doubt could be planted in regard to the idea of jihad and martyrdom, so that these radical interpretations will be drowned out by common sense. Once Muslims understand that killing takes them to Hell, they will rethink their loyalty to the ideas propounded by Hamas, ISIS, Fatah, Al Qaeda, and all the other myriad crazies who have chosen the path of evil over righteousness and call it godly.

In trying to think how I can spread Avi’s message, my son Natan and I decided to do an impromptu interview of Avi and see where we can go with this. Natan is a videographer and I’m the gal with the words. I held onto this clip for awhile, because it’s unrehearsed and raw. There are some malapropisms and Avi is stiff at first, until I get him to forget the camera. And it’s long. But there is some good material here.

I have decided to go ahead and share this clip of Avi with you, to see where it goes. The core ideas, they are all here. And these are good and valuable ideas. Please listen with an open mind. And then let me know what you think in the comments below.

About Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 34 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids, raising her 12 children, and noshing constantly on fried food

Facebook Comments

  • Norman_In_New_York

    As admirable as Rabbi Feld is, the world outside of Israel is best described by the famous lines of W.B. Yeats. “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Good people have had to deal with the kind of fanaticism that Islam has generated for century after century. The Protestant Reformation, like present day radical Islam, involved ordinary people reading the Holy Scripture for the first time and supplying their own interpretation. The result was 130 years of horrific warfare throughout Europe until the magnitude of the bloodbath adjusted attitudes enough to restore civilized conduct. In dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State and other evil actors, it would take a defeat in the magnitude of World War II over Nazi Germany and fanatical Japan to restore civilized behavior to Israel’s neighbors. Only then can Rabbi Feld’s seeds take root and the rest of the world listen to reason. After what we have been through over the last 2,000 years, every Jew true to himself longs for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the nations of the world will approach Jerusalem and declare, “Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.”

    • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

      That is distressingly well put, Norman. With Bibi at the helm, it’s not going to happen. So if you’re correct, our generation will be passing the buck to the next generation.

  • unpluggged

    First, a religion is not what is written in its books, but is what its adherents believe. And Muslims do believe that Islam should be forced upon everyone, and they do believe that anyone who does not submits to Islam is a kafir and must be exterminated. Especially the Jews.

    Second, any religion is harmful, and Islam is the most vivid example. A religion that approves beating of women and marrying little girls is evil. It’s not a religion of peace.

    If they want to kill and die over there in Gaza, let them.

    • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

      Obviously, unplugged, I disagree with your blanket dismissal of all religions as harmful. Judaism gave the world a moral code.

      The problem with killing and dying in Gaza is that innocent Jews are under siege.

      • Rochelle Meiseles

        …and Arabs who have never heard a different narrative and might just be willing to consider something different because, as Rabbi Feld says, it is more in line with human nature (assuming their nature is the same as ours).

        • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

          Exactly. What Rabbi Feld said about maternal instinct. We see clips of Arab mothers who are glad for their children to die. But surely there are others??

      • unpluggged

        I was expecting the counter-example with Judaism. But Judaism is not purely a religion, and not mainly a religion. It’s primarily a way of life and a set of moral rules. What differentiates it from almost all other religions is that it does not seek to force itself on people, but to the contrary. It does not maintain that in order to be awarded one must convert to Judaism. Judaism is a religion of deed, while Islam and Christianity are religions of words. In order to become and be a Jew, one must do a great deal of work. In order to become and to be a Muslim or a Christian, one only has to give a pledge.

        So for me, Judaism is not a religion. The same way as I do not consider religions another moral codes.

        And this is what I do like about Judaism. That nobody tries to force on me some totalitarian ideology. That nobody demands me to repent of my sins, for example, like some street preachers like to do.

        • http://www.kars4kids.org/blog Varda Meyers Epstein

          Sounds to me as though you have a personal definition of religion, unplugged.

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